After the tragic shooting at the Sikh temple, I once again got to thinking about the prevalence of guns in this country. But just as importantly, it got me to thinking about racism and bigotry against people who are perceived as different. The concept of "different" is related to the concept of "normal," in that there's no static definition of either. We're all different. My two brothers grew up in the same household, but except for the slight physical resemblance, there are few other commonalities. Consider your family; every one of you has at least one uncle or cousin who's not like anyone else.
Being different can't be a basis for much of anything, because the only thing everyone in this country has in common is that we're American, or aspire to be. Otherwise, we're all different. So why do we we seem to always have that small-but-loud segment of society that simply has to treat group of people who are supposedly "different" as less than human? Why do we allow certain people to operate under the impression that they’re better somehow, by virtue of the color of their skin, their gender, their religious beliefs, their mode of dress, their sexual orientation, or any of a number of other purely arbitrary factors, such as their chosen profession?
I understand that the United States isn't alone. Hate exists all over the world. But most of them don’t bill themselves proudly as “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” and tout themselves as a “melting pot.”
First, they complained about the StopRush movement, which seeks to inform advertisers as to what their advertising money is actually going to when it supported the Rush Limbaugh Daily Crap-athon. There’s never been an overt attempt to get Limbaugh off the air; all anyone seeks to do is to allow advertisers and their customers to have all information necessary to make an informed choice.
That’s not a free speech issue. To claim that Rush Limbaugh has the right to free speech is accurate. He does have the right to say what he wants on his radio program. If anyone were actually trying to take that away, I would be first in line to defend him. But his right to free speech does not entitle him or anyone connected to him to make money, and there is especially no right to make money from those who object to the content of his free speech.
Those of you who know me already know I'm something of a geek, so it may not surprise many to know I always check out the Project for Excellence in Journalism's "State of the News Media" reports when they come out. I pay special attention to the reports on cable, network and local television news, radio and newspapers. And there is one unmistakable trend in all of them.
Fewer and fewer people are relying on the major media for news.
I knew this without reading the reports, of course. When you consider the level of ignorance that's thrown around daily, especially from people who claim to be "news junkies," it's not difficult to see there's a problem. Despite the fact that the population has grown tremendously in the last 20 years, consumption of news has shrunk significantly.
If you actually read the news on a daily basis, it's not difficult to see why this is the cases. Fox News severely edited a couple of quotes by President Obama, removing all context from them, and most journalists just let it slide. In fact, in a blog post at the Washington Post yesterday, reporter Aaron Blake actually blew the truth off as someone else's job.
I know it’s hard to remember a time when Bernard Goldberg was simply a credible reporter. These days, except for his occasional sports stories on HBO’s “Real Sports,” he shows himself to be little more than a partisan hack, with little regard for fact, if he thinks it gets some sort of point across. That he now simply repeats untrue Republican Talking Points™ that we’ve all heard over the last week or so, without even qualifying them or checking them, verifies his hack status.
Last night, he was on The O’Reilly Factor, claiming that the media was remiss because it wasn’t paying enough attention to five of President Obama’s “broken promises.” Here’s the crucial portion of the transcript, which can be found here:
The neocons have held a disproportionate share of the government and basically have run things for the last 32 years now.
When do we progressives get tired of that?
When do progressives, as a whole, stop listening to the professional left, and realize that most of these people know exactly nothing about how politics works? I’m getting really sick of these people saying things that demonstrate a complete numbness as to how politics actually works.
Politics itself is NOT ideological. If you think it is, then you need to learn the difference between ideology and politics. While our ideology (and common sense) tells us we need to wean the country off fossil fuels, politics delineates the strategy by which you actually wean the country from fossil fuels. Our professional left understands ideology really well, and they know how to press lefty buttons so that you’ll keep reading them and giving them money. But very few of them understand politics.
One of the latest examples of this is a short piece written by Markos Moulitsas on his “Daily Kos” blog. Check out the title:
I am so tired of having to write this sort of piece. I need to be in full campaign mode, as does everyone else who calls themselves either "liberal" or "progressive." There's a point, every other year, when you put aside your whining about your pet issues that most other people couldn't care less about, and put yourself fully behind the most progressive candidate available to you. Yes, I'm sorry to say, because we elect our representatives through democratic means, it's unlikely that many of the candidates we choose from will be raging lefties. But that doesn't mean you don't have a choice.
There are less than five months to go. That means we have less than five months to create a meme that will encourage swing voters to show up at the polls and vote Democratic.
There is only one issue this election year, and probably for the next few election years, and that is money. I'm not talking about the deficit and the national debt. I'm talking about campaign financing.
Now, as I've said previously, money itself is not as influential with regard to electing people as many assume. if it was, we'd have had President Perot a long time ago. I think we can overcome the influence of money during election campaigns. But what we can't necessarily overcome would be the influence that will absolutely accompany a President Romney once he takes office and starts preparing to win a second term. If the professional left continues to be anything less than enthusiastic about a second Obama term, Willard Romney could squeak by and become president, and he will believe it was the post-Citizens United money that put him there. The Kochs are apparently prepared to spend $400 million to help Romney, and if you don't think Romney will be made to feel beholden to them for that contribution, well, there's this bridge in Brooklyn I could sell you for a song.
If we progressives learn nothing else from the aftermath of the Wisconsin recall election last night, we have to learn that strategy is far more important in politics than emotion. As I said in a previous post, politics itself is not personal, and taking an emotional approach to it will almost always result in frustration and loss. Just because you think a cause is right doesn’t mean everyone else thinks so. More importantly, you have to understand that not everyone has the same priorities as you, and they don’t resent the same things you do. We’re all different, and we think differently. Politics is about seeking out the common ground and appealing to people using that.
I knew I had to write this piece last night, when my Twitter feed was filled with puzzlement over the fact that exit polling showed Walker surviving recall, even as a majority of Wisconsin voters favored President Obama in November. This was seen by many liberals as a "contradiction." But it's not a contradiction at all. In order to believe it's a contradiction, you have to believe that everyone who cast a vote for Walker was actually in favor of Walker.
We all have that friend or relative who is so incredibly serious about everything, it makes us laugh. If you don’t know someone like that, there’s a good chance you're that person within your family or group.
Anyway, this is the person we all love to tweak when we’re in a somewhat aggressive mood, right? I'm not personally mean, but it’s fun sometimes to wind them up by saying something about a subject or issue that you know will make them react, then sit back and let the fur fly. I have one friend who goes absolutely ballistic whenever I say something negative about President Obama, so I say something bad about him whenever I’m in the mood to wind her up. I don’t mean what I’m saying, either; it’s just fun to watch her go off. She gets very animated and goes on about all the good things the president has done, and she doesn’t even notice my reaction until she sees the grin overtaking my face. It's then that she realizes how silly she’s been (I mean, after all, I wrote a pretty big list of the president’s accomplishments), and she smacks me on the back and tells me to stop it.
This could very well be the best analogy to what the far right does to us continuously. Except for one thing: our side never seems to notice their grin, and never realizes we’ve been had.